Candidate Message: Rachel Blumenfeld, 12th State Representative District, Democrat

Two Democrat candidates in the 12th State Rep. District will square off this Thursday in the Delaware Primary.  Rachel Blumenfeld will face Krista Griffith.  The winner will take on incumbent Deb Hudson in the General Election in November.  Blumenfeld, a teacher in the Colonial School District, sent her candidate message to me this evening.

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17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: State Rep. Andria Bennett

One Democrat State Representative in Delaware turned the cart upside down in the late days of June when she voted no on tax hike legislation.  She also put forth legislation that mandates cursive be taught to Delaware students in their early elementary years.  Andria Bennett definitely had an impact in 2017. Continue reading

Breaking News: Governor Carney Signs Cursive Bill! Take That Kate Gladstone!

At 2:27pm, on August 30th, Delaware Governor John Carney signed House Bill 70, which will make cursive writing mandatory instruction in all Delaware public schools beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.  The new (and old) instruction will require English and Language Arts teachers to teach cursive to students until the end of 4th grade.

So what happens next?  I imagine the State Board of Education will issue regulations based on the new law and from there the local school district and charter school boards will have to make sure it is part of the curriculum for the next school year.

As for the fierce opponent of the bill, Kate Gladstone, she will NOT be happy about this.  Ms. Gladstone travels to different states opposing cursive legislation.  Me, I write a blog.  She travels.  We all have our thing I guess.  But I don’t think Gladstone counted on the tenacity of little old Delaware.  She probably thought she could just roll over our state legislature.

Congrats to State Rep. Andria Bennett for getting this rolling again and to State Rep. Deb Hudson for bringing it for in the last legislative session.

The “Wahl” Bill Dealing With Zero Tolerance Policies On Weapons Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

There was so much activity going on Sunday night/Monday morning with bills passing left and right, I didn’t realize a very important one passed the Senate.  House Bill 176 passed the General Assembly and is waiting to be signed by Delaware Governor John Carney.  Anyone who has been following this bill and the backstory behind it knows this started with one father’s fight against the Brandywine School District.

Pat Wahl’s son was alleged to have brought a weapon into school and was suspended.  His father fought the charge but the Brandywine Board of Education voted on it and agreed to the administrator’s recommendation.  Wahl appealed the decision with the State Board of Education and won.  After a legal situation with the district, Wahl and Brandywine settled.  The result of the settlement was Brandywine would change their zero tolerance policies.  Wahl took it another step and spoke with State Rep. Deb Hudson.  As a result, House Bill #176 was born.  Congrats to Wahl, Brandywine, and State Rep. Hudson for taking what could have been a matter of sour grapes and actually creating something lasting for all Delaware Schools.

While HB #176 deals primarily with weapons, this could be the start of a whole new way of looking at school discipline.  As I’ve been writing the series about what happened to J in Smyrna School District, I have heard from several parents about similar kinds of situations.  It has become very transparent to me that the next leg of the Delaware 149th General Assembly needs some companion legislation to House Bill #176.  Pat Wahl had the time and the means to take things as far as he did, but not all parents are so fortunate.  Not to disparage Wahl in any way, but for every one of them, there are probably 25 parents who wouldn’t have the money, resources, or even knowledge to be able to fight these issues.  Which is exactly why I am tackling them: to spread that knowledge and shine a light on what many are seeing as a very heavy hand on the part of some school districts when it comes to discipline.

In the meantime, I will take this victory and raise a glass in honor of Wahl.  I look forward to Carney signing this and making this the law of the land in Delaware.

Delaware Cursive Bill Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

How about those apples Kate Gladstone?  The Delaware Cursive Bill, House Bill #70, passed the Delaware Senate today with 17 yes and 2 no votes.  Two State Senators were absent.  The no votes were State Senators Gary Simpson and Ernie Lopez.  Now the bill, which would make cursive instruction mandatory in Delaware public schools, will go to the desk of Governor John Carney for signature.

This was a surprisingly controversial bill this session.  A prior attempt at this legislation came out in the 148th General Assembly but failed to get a full vote in the House.  This time, it went all the way through the General Assembly.  It created a good amount of discussion concerning the worthiness of the bill.  Full disclosure, I fully supported this bill.

One of the folks opposed to the bill was a woman named Kate Gladstone.  She made it her mission at the House Education Committee meeting to make sure the bill went nowhere.  Obviously, most of the Delaware legislators were not swayed by her unconvincing arguments.  Perhaps another state will listen to you when they follow Delaware’s lead on this Ms. Gladstone!

I want to thank State Rep. Andria Bennett who saw this bill through as well as State Rep. Deb Hudson who gave it a valiant attempt two years ago!

Delaware Republicans Release Anti-Prevailing Wage Legislation, Let The Labor Wars Begin!

Senate Bill 116, introduced today, would require a three-year exemption on prevailing wages for school construction.  It would also require public schools to give a cost study to the Controller General’s Office.

Sponsored by Senator Gary Simpson along with Senator Greg Lavelle and State Reps Danny Short and Deb Hudson.  Co-sponsors include six GOP Senators and six GOP State Reps.

I find it very interesting they chose school construction for this given the audit that came out last week against Sussex Technical School District.  If there is some secret deal or compromise to pass the state budget, this would be the key legislation the Delaware Republicans have been looking for.  Don’t count it out until everyone goes home on July 1st.  Strange things happen the night of June 30th and the early hours of July 1st.  A bill could be dead, and presto, it has a suspension of rules.

I would have to image the unions are already opposing this bill.  Call me crazy, but I would guess they aren’t strong supporters.

Delaware Chancery Court Judge Rules Red Clay Violated Election Clause But Will Not Have To Redo 2015 Referendum

Vice-Chancellor Laster, a Chancery Court for the State of Delaware judge, finally ruled on the Red Clay referendum lawsuit.  The very long ruling, clocking in at 186 pages, blasts Delaware’s antiquated method of property tax assessment and delves deep into education funding as a whole for the state of Delaware.

The final ruling, issued today, found fault with Red Clay for going over the line with their Parent Events at 23 Red Clay schools during their February 2015 referendum.  But he also stated that the entire referendum process is one of great pressure for school districts and individuals in those situations can dance around what is wrong or right.  He found they did not act with intended malice but for the public good since referendum results in the positive bring public schools money to fund them.  As a result, he ruled against Red Clay redoing the entire referendum and refunding taxes already paid from it.

The lawsuit was filed by an elderly couple and their daughter through the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union.  The plaintiffs claimed they were not able to vote because of inadequate parking due to the parent events staged to bring in positive votes for the referendum.

The ruling suggests no referenda in Delaware would ever have to take place if properties were assessed based on current home values.

This is an amazing read if you are at all interested in current education funding in Delaware.  With Colonial facing a must-pass referendum or several teachers and educators will be let go, this decision could have a major bearing on any events they might be planning for their 2nd referendum attempt this year in the beginning of June.

This will be a big question for future referenda in Delaware.  Does this ruling set a precedent for all referenda that no events can be held at schools during a referendum?

I’m Calling This One The “Patrick Wahl” Legislation!

Parent power is very real in Delaware!  Look no further than House Bill 176, introduced today by State Rep. Deb Hudson!  This bill would give school boards and administrators more discretion for what is considered a “deadly weapon” other than a gun.  It even says in the synopsis of the bill .”this bill is a result of a recent case in the Brandywine School District.”  You don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out folks.  Wahl was down at Legislative Hall a couple of weeks ago for the PTA Day.

For some reason the PDF won’t download on Scribd so I will update it when it becomes available, but this would be the change to Delaware state code if the bill passes:

(6)  In the event that an elementary or secondary school student possesses a deadly weapon other than a firearm in a Safe School and Recreation Zone in addition to any other penalties contained in this section, the student shall be suspended for a period of not less than 30 days unless otherwise provided for in federal or state law.  The local school board or charter school board of directors may, on a case by case basis, modify the terms of the suspension.

Like I said, never underestimate parent power.  Wahl fought for over two years to get his son’s discipline removed from his record.  But he went a step further and as a result of a settlement with the district, a new policy was created in Brandywine.  Now it looks like Wahl is taking it to the next level so this policy goes statewide!  Congrats and thank you for your advocacy Pat Wahl!

 

State Rep. Bennett Brings Cursive Bill Back For Consideration In Delaware

State Rep. Andria Bennett’s House Bill 70 would make cursive writing a requirement for Delaware public education students.  This is the second time in the past couple of years a bill like this came before the Delaware General Assembly.  Last time, State Rep. Deb Hudson was the main sponsor of this bill but it didn’t move forward.  For this legislative session, it looks like the proposed bill has a lot more Democrat support.

I support this bill.  You need to know cursive to sign checks and important documents.  It also promotes better penmanship for students.  Many historical documents were in cursive.  Thanks Rep. Bennett!

All School Boards Must Record: Governor Markell Signs HB61

On May 25th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 61 into law. All public school boards in Delaware must record their board meetings when they are in public session and make them available on their website within seven business days of the meeting. The law goes into effect 90 days after signature, so by August 25th this is the law of the land!

This is a true victory for Kilroy’s Delaware, the godfather of education blogs in Delaware. For the very few who might not know, this has been Kilroy’s mission for the past fifty billion years or something like that. Many helped along the way, but he carried the flame. And with only a pocket full of college credits!

Kilroy promised his readers that after this mission was done he would release his long-awaited story about how “Johnny can’t read”.  I can’t wait to read it!  Congrats to the main man, the man who has inspired so many of us, who has been doing this much longer than I have, and keeps on going, the one, the only,

KILROY

HB61Signed

Kilroy’s Legacy On Senate Agenda Today For Full Senate Vote

House Bill 61, the school board audio recording legislation, is up for a full Delaware Senate vote today.  This bill has a long history in the Delaware General Assembly.  Many districts and the State Board of Education already record their board meetings and put them up on their website.  This bill would make so they all have to, including charters and vo-techs.

HB61SenateAgenda

In the 147th General Assembly, it was House Bill 23.  It was released from the House Education Committee but never progressed from there.  State Rep. Deb Hudson reintroduced the bill last year as House Bill 61.  It cleared the House Education Committee last year and passed the House this year.  A little over a month ago it was released from the Senate Education Committee.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee is the legislator that puts it on the agenda for the Senate, which would be Senator David Sokola.  Finally, after many years, Kilroy’s dream is about to come true.  Others fought for this as well, but Kilroy was the one really pushing it.  If the Senate passes this (and I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t), it goes to Governor Markell for signature and then it would be the law of the land.

Never underestimate what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.  Don’t give up, even when you think all is lost.

Live From The Delaware House Education Committee

First up, House Bill 161, the Parent Empowerment Savings Account.  State Rep. Deb Hudson is talking about the bill.  She said it would not be a tidal wave of students that would be able to participate in the program.  She said there are only 12 students eligible for the program in Delaware right now.  She said the funds would be put on a debit card for parents to choose for whatever education program they wanted for their exceptional child.  She said the parents would almost become like a contractor in the state.  There are restrictions on what the parent could use the debit card for.  WaWa is out, Hudson said.

State Rep. and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques asked if there is a fiscal note for the bill.  Hudson said no.  She is explaining the money follows the child.  Jaques is saying it could be very labor-intensive for school districts.  These funds would only be used from state funds.  The local share of funding would stay in the district according to Hudson.  She wants the child’s name to stay in the district.  State Rep. Sean Matthews asked if this includes all children.  She said that was deleted and the description is included in the amendment.  Matthews said it seems like this bill would be in conflict with the State Constitution if funds were used in a religious school.  Hudson said it could also be used for tutoring and not just a religious school.  She said this would stand up in a court of law like it did in Arizona.  She didn’t want to write a bill that would wind up in the courts.  Matthews is asking if ALEC was the initiator of the legislation.  She said no, it was the Goldwater Institute.

State Controller Mike Jackson said the fiscal note is indeterminate based on the small amount of students.  He said the impact would be there since much of the state funding goes towards enrollment and affects teacher salaries.  She said the districts get to keep the local funding so it evens out.  State Rep. Kim Williams asked about the debit card policy with a pre-determined amount of money.  She said it isn’t a Visa card.  It would be put out by the State Treasurer’s office.  It wouldn’t be able to be used at a WaWa according to Hudson since it is illegal.  She said there would be accountability behind it.  Williams said nothing could stop someone from using the debit card at WaWa.  A gentleman with the Goldwater Institute said there are merchant codes on the card that would prevent the user from using the card for non-educational purposes.  The card would be rejected if it didn’t match the merchant codes.  Williams said the State is already obligated to pay for speech therapists for all students up to age 5.  She said this could overlap and would cause problems.  Hudson said it is neutral and would be paid from either source.  Williams stressed the state already pays for it so why would they make parents pay for it?  Williams asked how additional resources would be given to families if funds can be sent to college savings plan.  Hudson said she hasn’t read the synopsis lately and she is more focused on K-12 students.  The Goldwater Institute gentleman said parents spend the funds based on the resources and additional services needed for each child.  Williams asked if a parent could put all the money into a college plan.  Hudson said if she were leaving it up to the Delaware Dept. of Education, they would weigh in on the decision.

State Rep. Kevin Hensley said the education of students with disabilities is near and dear to him.  He said IDEA is administered by the school districts.  He asked how IDEA would be able to factor into this if a student goes to a private school.  The Goldwater man said a student would have to already be on an IEP to be able to qualify for the program.  Then Hensley asked about the IEP team.  Would the IEP team come to an outside school if a parent uses this program.  He said in Arizona some parents went back to the district and others did not.  He also said there are private providers that can develop the IEPs in Arizona as well.  Jaques said private schools don’t have to follow IDEA or even grant IEPs.  Goldwater man said the private provider could develop the IEP.  State Rep. Deb Heffernan said IDEA provides Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided for any student w/a disability up to age 21.  She said if FAPE cannot be provided for a student a parent has a legal right to file for due process to have school district fund private education if funds cannot be met at a public school.  She said this bill is a voucher system to fund private schools because their enrollment is down 35% in Delaware.  She is in opposition to the bill.  Hudson said she doesn’t care where the child goes to school.  She just wants parents to have a choice on where they send their school in order to meet the needs of the child.  She said this is not a voucher system but a savings account.  Hudson said she does not agree with the voucher system herself.  Heffernan stressed the part about FAPE and that a parent would sue the charter school or district to be able to get FAPE for their child.  She said this bill is, her fear, that it will become a voucher system.

Jaques asked about the several mentions of the Delaware DOE in the bill and if she coordinated with them.  She said she didn’t and believes they are capable of handling it.  Hudson said the DOE would get 3% of the savings account funds for administrative purposes.  Jaques said in addition to the student not getting the local funding, now they are getting even less.  Williams said the State Treasurer would also get a percentage of funds.  Hudson said they would get 3% as well.  Williams said we have a system in place where these students get additional funds for their IEPs based on the need.  Hudson said it would be determined based on the existing IEP.  Williams asked who is going to determine that funding.  She said a student could already be in a private school.  Hudson said the DOE would determine that.  Hudson said she doesn’t visualize a student already in a private school being able to use these funds.  Williams said she appreciates the intent of the bill but she is very confused.  Hudson stressed the DOE is capable of handling this.  If she never met with the DOE how in the world would she be able to determine that?  She said the DOE is able to meet the needs of all children.  Williams expressed disappointment that collaboration with the DOE didn’t occur.  Hudson said she doesn’t mean to give a Smart Alec answer but we institute policy all the time as legislators and then work out the details later.  Williams said it is her job to understand the bill and to make sure all the resources are in place.

State Rep. Harvey Kenton asked how many teachers would lose their jobs because of this bill.  He said he has family that are teachers and he thinks this is a step to destroy public education.  He stressed it is federal and state mandated but he can’t support it.  He said all 19 school districts have contacted him and none are in favor of the bill.  Matthews said the definition of participating schools is non-governmental school and he is looking at the allowable expenses for the bill.  He asked what it means about “allowable curriculum”.  He said he never heard of anyone having to buy a curriculum.  She said that is more for homeschool students where parents sometimes have to buy a curriculum.  Goldwater man said all those expenses don’t have to be bought once a year.  Heffernan asked if any other state agencies would be involved in this private school initiative.  She said the state and the school districts have the obligation to provide FAPE.  She said the DOE can’t get the private school to do anything.  Who would the parents sue if a student doesn’t get FAPE at the private school?  Would the public school still get sued if they can’t get the private school to do anything?  Hudson said the DOE would have to approve the curriculum.  Hudson said the DOE would be able to oversee the curriculum at the private school and if it changed they could let the private school know.  She fails to realize how public education versus private schools work.  Matthews asked if the DOE is currently able to tell private schools what to do?  Hudson said no.  Matthews said this would expand the DOE’s authority and they don’t have this authority.  Matthews asked if the DOE could deny which school a student with disabilities goes to?  He looked at several DOE employees who said no.  Goldwater man said the object of the language here is to protect the private school autonomy so the DOE can’t change it.  Goldwater man said there are a lot of possibilities.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked what the Blaine Amendment is.  Goldwater man said there are 37-38 states that have language in their constitutions that allow for these programs.  Baumbach said the law in Delaware’s constitution would not allow for this bill to be used since we would be breaking the law.  Baumbach said:

The State Constitution forbids this legislation so I would recommend the committee not release this bill.

Secretary of Education Godowsky said he would be willing to work with Hudson on the bill but he can’t commit to the resources needed for the bill.  Bill Doolittle gave public comment said protections under IDEA are safeguards for our children.  He said giving up those safeguards is something that shouldn’t be done.  He said if it isn’t choice for everybody, it isn’t choice.  He said most parents cannot afford a private school placement even after this savings plan.  He said it is not equitable for low-income families.  Sandra Spence with the League of Women Voters opposes the bill and said the bill would take more money out of public education.  John Marinucci with the DE School Boards Association echoed the previous sentiment and said they don’t support taking more money out of education especially to pay administrative fees.  He said they oppose this being tied to a blurring of state and religious schools.  He mentioned equalization funds which would affect the fiscal note of the bill.

Mary O’Connell, a teacher at Concord High School, talked about her own son with a disability.  She said her son was supported by the Bush School but wasn’t at Carrcroft.  She said they were denied the services he needed.  Her son’s anxiety level was so high and their psychologist recommended he be removed from the school.  He wound up in a regular class with 26 students.  Whenever his teacher was out the substitute would call and she would have to pick him up.  He is now at the College School and she has never had to pick him up.  She stated he is thriving at the school now.  She said she is not a strong supporter of inclusion programs.  She said public schools cannot always help these students.  She is here to support the needs of the students.  A young girl who attended a public school but now attends a private school said she doesn’t think she could read at the level she reads at now if she had to go to public school.  She gets nervous about testing and public speaking.  She attends the College School.  Another student who also attends the College School, a bit older than the previous student, said she has dyslexia.  She said she learns better in small classrooms.  She just started there in January.  A public commenter named Laurie Smith said her children attended the Northstar school.  She begged for help and she didn’t get it.  The mother was very upset.  She didn’t qualify for occupational therapy and had to pay out of her pocket.  She said the speech therapy her child gets is better than what the public school system is able to give.  She said that is where she needs to be able to pay for these services.  She said many parents are paying out of pocket for services for their disabled children.  She saved money for college for her daughter but she has spent all those funds already.  Her daughter is going into 5th grade and she doesn’t know how they can afford the expenses.  Another commenter said she has children in the Pilot School who are thriving.  She said the small classroom sizes allow for a better environment for her children.  She is in favor of this bill.   Martha Henley, another commenter, said she is in support of the bill.  She hears the concern of private vs. public schools.  She said she started out in private schools and that school was not able to meet the needs.  She is talking about the costs involved and how students sometimes have to go to more than four years of college.  A gentleman who gave public comment said his son doesn’t fit into any category and that the category of FAPE just doesn’t work in public education.  A little boy came up to the podium who said “I’m scared”.  His mother said her son is autistic and that he attended the Brandywine School District.  The teacher said it was not the right place for her child.  She had to get an evaluation out of pocket and had to use all their savings.  She said this is about the parents and working with the teachers and all the counselors.  Her son goes to Centreville now and they are able to accommodate his needs and has a very small class.  She said there about 20 kids in Delaware that are intelligent and high-functioning that fit into this category.  Another parent said her child’s learning differences are very rare and she is the mom that is always there and is pushing the school to get the services her child needs.  She supports this bill and she knows he will do better in a small classroom.  She needs to be able to help him and he needs a chance.  Cathy Morris said she is in favor of the bill.  Her grandson has multiple learning disabilities, a numbers type of dyslexia, attention-deficit, and other disabilities.  When he was in public school they were told he chose not to learn.  He is now at the College School and repeated 4th grade and has made tremendous strides.  He had to get out of the mindset where he felt like he was failing.  She wants other parents to be able to have the choice.  She wants to transfer him into a vocational school but also have options to have supplemental vocational training or services.  Martha Durham with Garnett Valley PTA said she had to move to Garnett Valley to get the services her son married.  She spent her whole life in Delaware.  Her son has multiple diagnoses.  Her son was put into public school and started having suicidal thoughts in weeks.  She said Delaware has great schools but there are some kids who just can’t make it.  Her son is important to her.

Kevin Carson with Delaware Association of School Administrators and also on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association said the funding mechanisms already in place cause both to stand opposed to the bill.

Jaques put forth a motion to table the bill.  8 in favor.  The bill is tabled.  Hudson said she wants to continue working on this bill and said it shouldn’t be about well-to-do parents being able to get these kinds of services.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at this point.  The meeting didn’t even start until 3:30 or so.  I will update or write another article when I find out what happened with the other four bills on the agenda.  But I will say this.  What I witnessed at this meeting broke my heart.  I saw many desperate parents, some spending their entire savings to get their children special education services they should be entitled to by law, speak from the heart today.  Whether I agree with the bill or not, it is more painfully obvious than ever that Delaware is not doing the right thing for special needs children.  Something has to change…

 

 

Next Week In The House Education Committee: Autism, Vouchers, & School Board Terms

I wrote earlier this week  about the massive amount of education meetings going on next week. Add one more to the list: The House Education Committee on Wednesday, May 4th.  On tap is House Bill 161 sponsored by State Rep. Deb Hudson which covers The Parent Empowerment Education Savings Act (school vouchers for special needs students), Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep Earl Jaques’ Senate Bills 92 and 93 dealing with autism, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s House Bill 333 which looks to lower school board terms from five to three years.  Hudson’s bill was on the agenda a few weeks ago but disappeared.  The Senate Education Committee meeting will take place at 3pm, but as usual, no agenda is up for it.  That usually doesn’t happen until the day before.

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Christina Referendum Haters Using Donald Trump’s Playbook & Christina Releases Markell Support Video

EricBoye

Donald Trump’s unfathomable success has been due to playing on the fears and worries of disenfranchised voters.  I see the same thing with First State Liberty’s overzealous attacks on the Christina School District referendum taking place on March 23rd.  It is becoming more than obvious there is more than meets the eye with First State Liberty.  Meanwhile, none other than Governor Jack Alan Markell did a video for the district which supports the referendum and urges voters to say yes on Wednesday.

There are a multitude of things I don’t agree with Governor Markell about on education.  But there are two things I think we can draw agreement on: support for the Christina referendum and we both oppose school vouchers.  I think most can agree the whole referendum process stinks.  But until there is another method or funding mechanism for our schools in Delaware, voting no on a referendum hurts children most of all.   As I just said to someone on Facebook in regards to the mindset of First State Liberty: “We know the ship is going to sink.  Instead of plugging the hole, we’re going to shoot a cannonball into it so it sinks faster.”  If a district doesn’t pass a referendum when they really need the funds, it will have a downward spiral that comes down to each and every student in the district.

The referendum opposers are getting robo-calls and emails from a right-wing group called First State Liberty.  I wrote an article about them the other day.  Who is supporting them?  The Delaware blogger Kavips did some digging last week and found out who was backing the robo-calls.  Many of the leaders of these organizations put their children in private schools.  They resent the fact they pay tuition for their children and pay school taxes.  They seem to forget that all citizens pay this.  They want voucher programs which have failed miserably in many states.  In Delaware, State Rep. Deb Hudson has tried to get voucher legislation through, but it doesn’t get past the bill filing.

When pushed to respond to requests to come to Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meetings in Christina, the front people behind First State Liberty don’t even respond to the invitation.  They come out once a year before these referendums and act like it is The Day After Tomorrow if a referendum passes.  They forget children are involved in their schemes and agendas and don’t care if students are affected the most by the damage they do.  They like to tout the Revolutionary War as their greatest inspiration.  They don’t realize the differences between the people from 240 years ago and what is going on in the present.  They will say and do anything to advance their agenda.  They lure people into their fold and they spout lies and untruths.  Then they get their followers to do the same.  It is a sad and pathetic situation.

Do I think our school districts could do a better job?  Absolutely.  They all play the absurd “Delaware Way” game where parties must compromise.  They just want a seat at the table without realizing they are on the table.  The compromises result in districts being forced to shell out more money for services to properly educate children based on state mandates.  What First State Liberty should take a more active role in is this conundrum.  Instead, they want to target children and their classrooms.  Forget everything they say about “administrative costs” and “spending per pupil”.  Their theories are debunked on a daily basis anymore.

I’ve said it before, when children lose, we all lose.  Even Governor Markell understands this simple fact.  Why can’t First State Liberty, who could be doing so much more in Delaware, get this concept?  Why do they target school districts but do absolutely nothing about the even bigger problem?  Do they have the political muscle to do more than bully referendum voters?  Of course, no one from their outfit will respond with intelligent answers on these issues.  When challenged, they delete information from supporters or just ignore it.  Why are they so hell-bent on destroying school districts?  Is it because their kids aren’t in public education and they don’t care what happens to other families kids?  I will fully admit, my son is in private school but I would still vote yes for this referendum if I lived in the Christina School District.  It’s about the kids, not your wallets.  Playing on the fears of unsuspecting citizens and giving false information while doing so is not only disingenuous, but bad form.

Lest we forget, this is the same outfit that thought it was okay to bring guns to Newark City Council meetings.  This is the same outfit that some right-wing groups really don’t want to be associated with.  But when it comes to referendums, it is okay for their hate and fear mongering?  Wake up Delaware citizens.  Don’t buy their hate-filled propaganda and smear campaigns.  They aren’t in it for you, they are in it for themselves.  I have some conservative ideals myself, but there is an ocean of difference between conservative ideals and this.  Shame on you First State Liberty…

 

Delaware Senate Bill 165 Would Make Referendums Once A Year & Change School Board Elections To US Mail Only

Apparently there was a Delaware Senate Bill submitted on July 15th that I didn’t know about.  I found out because the House has a pre-filing day today so I thought I would check the Senate Side.  House Bill 165 would drastically change things with school district referendums.  Instead of a district having more than one referendum in a year, all school districts would have their referendum on the 2nd Tuesday of May.  This is also the same day when school board elections take place.  As for those school board elections, instead of having them at schools, they would take place through the US Mail system.  This bill is sponsored by Senator Karen Peterson and State Reps Michael Ramone and Deborah Hudson.  Co-sponsors are Senators Brian Bushweller and Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep. Stephanie Bolden.  I assume a lot of this is in reaction to the Red Clay referendum last winter which is also part of a lawsuit.  To read the legislation, please see below:

Delaware Education Legislation That Should Have Passed In The 148th General Assembly

I wrote earlier today about education legislation that passed the other day and went to Governor Markell for signature, veto, or no action.  To date, Governor Markell has never vetoed any education bill that has come before him.  But some legislation never gets there.  The following are bills that had tremendous merit, but for various reasons either never got heard in committee, were never voted on, never went to the other side (House or Senate), or were stricken.  Others are bills I’m going to label as very controversial and have danger flags all over them.  I’m not going to list them all, but the most important ones.

House Bill #28 Status: House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.  

What Happened: This is the first of the many Kim Williams education bills she introduced this year.  While she has quite a few on this list, a lot of her bills passed.  She really took off, right from the very beginning of this year’s session, to get education bills out there to correct a lot of the injustices set up in the budget and with the way the DOE runs things.  Unfortunately, with the heavy-handed pro-education reform Governor Markell and his minions at the DOE, along with Rep. Earl Jaques as head of the education committee, bills like this are hard to be heard along with the stiff lobbying from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Prediction: State Auditor reports come out showing more charter financial mismanagement, the state desperately looking for any available funds for the budget, and Jaques either stripped of chairmanship power on the education committee or knocked down a peg or two from Schwartzkopf in the coming days of elections, and this one will pass.  The charter party in Delaware is going to get crashed, and it will change the entire landscape they are used to living in.  It wouldn’t shock me if amendment were added stripping charters from their transportation slush fund where they get to keep their excess funds from their transportation budget.  It will get strong opposition from the Republicans, but even some of them will realize the public will remember that come vote time!

House Bill #30 Status: sent to Appropriations Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.

What Happened: The budget.  This bill has a $7.5 million fiscal note.  The sad part is these students should have always been provided this funding from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this bill will be one of those that will rise or fall based on the budget next year.

Prediction: The IEP Task Force will reconvene, and in conjunction with House Bill 117, the Wilmington redistricting push, and the Senate Resolution group looking at funding, as well as IMMENSE pressure from this blog, it could pass.  Special education is about to become a huge topic in Delaware, bigger than at any time before.  Trust me on this!

House Bill #34 Status: sent to Senate Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, synopsis: This bill will allow a local school district board to delay new or changed rules, regulations, or administrative procedures from becoming effective during a school year once the school year has started. This will allow the rules, regulations, and procedures to be consistent for the whole school year.

What Happened: this bill, which I loved when it was introduced back in January, just passed the House on the last day of session.  It is a good solid bill which will prevent the DOE from sneaking in regulations during the summer forcing schools to submit to them without any guidance or support once they come back in August.

Prediction: It will pass the Senate, but not right away.  Spiegelman, as a young Republican in the House, wants to show some muscle.  In the Democrat controlled House and Senate, this can be dangerous.  They will not give him what he wants all the time, but they will give him lots of carrots.

House Bill #52 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: Under current educational standards, cursive writing is no longer required to be taught to our students, and many schools have abandoned teaching it to their students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill will make the teaching of cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.

What happened: not a lot.  It was released from the education committee.  It had so-so public support, but not a lot.  Both sides had pros and cons on the issue.

Prediction: If the House has a really slow day and Schwartzkopf is in a good mood, it might get to a vote.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.

House Bill #61 Status: on House ready list, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: This bill requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. The recordings will not be considered the official board minutes.
Currently the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Christina School District, and the Capital School District on a voluntary basis approved by their boards of education have been providing the public digital recordings of their board public session meetings via the district’s websites.
The Delaware State Board of Education is required by the State Board of Education to make available within one business day digital recordings of its board meetings on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

What Happened: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I’m guessing the Speaker of the House really hate this bill, cause this is the third year in a row it came out of committee and sat on the ready list.  Also known as the Kilroy’s bill, the charters have fought against it by crying over the “expenses”, but it really isn’t an expensive venture.

Prediction: This will depend on charter school behavior between now and next year.  If the State Auditor finds more bad financial behavior, this could cause Schwartzokpf to finally put it to a vote.  I think it will pass with strong Democrat support, but like House Bill 186, the Republicans will shoot it down because of their strange obsession with charters.  It will pass under this circumstance.  And we can’t forget the Kilroy effect on this bill.  He is very pissed about the treatment of this bill.  He could drum up a lot of public support for this bill, and I will be happy to help him.

House Bill #107 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill articulates the principle that local school districts and school boards should have the authority to select their own leaders and staff from a pool of qualified applicants. These are decisions best left at the local level rather than imposed by a central authority.

What happened: This bill was a reaction to the DOE and Markell’s priority schools initiative, where six schools were told by the DOE they will get new leaders because of their bad standardized test scores.  The whole priority school controversy died down quick after the WEAC recommendations, but they are still out there.  Red Clay negotiated against the new leaders and won.  Christina is up in the air due to the whole redistricting legislation, Senate Bill #122.

Prediction: This won’t go anywhere, unless the DOE pulls a priority schools sneak attack in the fall causing the dormant issue to rise again.  Then this bill has a fighting change.

House Bill #108 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis: This bill requires that the General Assembly approve any ESEA Flexibility waiver prior to its submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

What happened: Too many bills like this, designed to give the General Assembly more control over the out of control DOE.  With the House Education Committee led by the very-friendly-with-DOE-and-probably-too-much Rep. Earl Jaques, it was never put on the agenda.

Prediction: It will depend on Jaques retaining his chair on the committee.  With numerous issues over House Bill 50 and House Bill 186, it would not shock me if Jaques had a conversation with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.  This will also depend on DOE behavior regarding their current ESEA waiver application and next year’s as well.  Another curve ball could come in the form of ESEA reauthorization at a Federal level which would render this bill meaningless if waivers are done away with.

House Bill #117 Status: assigned to House Appropriations committee,  Sponsor: Rep. Deb Heffernan, synopsis: This Act will create a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income according to the Department of Education. This funding source will be in addition to the normal enrollment based funding provided to school districts and charter schools. The low-income unit will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12 where the funding can be used for such purposes as providing additional teachers and paraprofessionals for classroom instruction; additional counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and intervention specialists; Response to Intervention Services; and before and after school programs providing homework assistance, and for support for English language learners. To ensure the low-income resources reach the schools where they are most needed, this Act requires that at least 98% of the units be directed towards the schools that generate the funding unless otherwise waived by a local board of education during a public meeting. 

What Happened: The budget.  Another bill with a fiscal note during very tight budget negotiations.  With the already passed Senate Resolution to look at funding in schools, and the strong push from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, this bill will be on a fast track in 2016.

Prediction: How much money will we have?  They are already projecting a $160 million deficit in Delaware next year.  Unless revenue starts pouring in, this bill could die on the fiscal vine.

House Bill #161 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsor: Rep. Deb Hudson, synopsis: AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ESTABLISHING THE PARENT EMPOWERMENT EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT ACT.

What happened: This one was dead on arrival.  The whole idea of vouchers, which is exactly what these are, is a Republican idea.  In Dover, the Democrats rule and have for many years.  Democrats, the DSEA, and even Governor Markell are dead set against any type of voucher plan.

Prediction: if this even makes it to the House Education Committee, it will be shot down very fast.  And with states like Nevada ruling voucher programs unconstitutional, and Colorado giving a state ruling against them, any potential support for vouchers will quickly fade.  With the upcoming election year, the very thought of vouchers will be brought up by many Republicans, but it is a toxic subject opposed by many.  If you want to see how a voucher system can bring an entire country’s education system to it’s knees, just look at Sweden.

House Bill 173 Status: assigned to House Education Committee, Sponsors: Rep. Richard Collins and Senator Greg Lavelle, synopsis: The Department of Education often implements policies and educational requirements based upon directives issued by the United States Department of Education. This Bill will require that any directive received by the Department of Education from the Federal Government be automatically disclosed on the Department of Education website without the necessity for making a Freedom of Information Request. 

What Happened: Nothing.  It was introduced on 6/10/15, late in the session, by two Republicans.  However, given the shenanigans with the DOE and the many issues legislators conveyed with the DOE this year, this should have been a no-brainer.

Prediction: Up in the air.  There are other bills like this, demanding more transparency and stringent rules for the DOE and State Board.  Can all of them get passed?  It will really depend on how the DOE, Secretary Murphy, and the State Board “play” in the next year.  But this would lend transparency to the DOE, and I can see them wanting this to give the illusion…

House Bill 186 Status: Passed by House of Representatives, Sponsor: Rep. Kim Williams, synopsis of bill: Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.

What happened: In four words, Delaware Charter Schools Network.  They openly lobbied against the bill, even setting up an email your legislator campaign on their website which several charter schools reached out to parents about.  Meanwhile, charter schools from Dover to Wilmington had allegations and reports coming out regarding financial abuse by school leaders.  This bill rolled the previous Williams sponsored House Bills #53 and 154 into one.

Prediction: more reports will come out from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office regarding other charter schools under investigation.  DCSN will lobby even harder, but transparency and financial controls will rule the day. Once again, the charter party is coming to an end in 2016. Remember this.  I’m not saying they will disappear, far from it.  But they will be held to higher financial and organizational standards.

Senate Bill #72 Status: on ready list for Senate, Sponsor: Senator Bryan Townsend, synopsis: This bill increases the teaching and administrative experience qualifications for the Secretary of Education from 5 years to 10 years. The Bill also clarifies that at least 6 years must be of teaching experience and at least 2 years must be of administrative experience. 

What Happened: This bill came out around the same time the Delaware State Educators Association and their local organizations in Christina and Red Clay publicly denounced Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with their vote of no confidence.  It immediately became a must-read article for newspapers and bloggers.  Shortly thereafter, the Delaware Association of School Administrators issued the same decree.

Prediction: This one is tough.  While there is certainly not a lot of love for Murphy in Legislative Hall (and in much of Delaware), he does have some things going for him.  This past Monday it was announced he was joining the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers.  This give him even more federal protection under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s gaze.  Rep. Earl Jaques is the DOE’s House boy, so he may not put it on the agenda for the education committee.  As well, he is the perfect patsy for Governor Markell who runs the show.  Murphy does not bend for anyone if it contradicts one of Markell’s education policies.  While I think this is the funniest bill out there, it could set up an even worse situation if it passes.  Imagine a Secretary with the same  mindset as Murphy but more qualified.  Someone with charisma and public appeal.  That could be more dangerous than Murphy could ever be.  Unless Murphy does something colossally stupid over the next year, he isn’t going anywhere.  No matter what passes, Markell will never sign this bill.

Senate Bills #92 & 93 Status: on ready list for Senate vote, Sponsor: Senator Margaret Rose-Henry, synopsis for SB92: Delaware Code Title 14§1332 addresses the Program for Children with Autism and its “Special Staff.” Enacted nearly three decades ago, these regulations established a network of educational programs initially within a separate school structure known as The Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Today, this network continues as a combination of both separate school programs and within local school district support services. In addition, the code designates a Statewide Director who primarily has provided direction, training, and technical assistance within the DAP. However, current practices in special education, especially regarding inclusive education and parents’ desire to have their children educated within their local communities, seem to be incongruent with this older model of service delivery. In addition, the magnitude of the increase in students identified with ASD has clearly created difficulty for the Statewide Director to provide the level of services/support that once was offered.
Therefore, the recommended code changes also revise the concept of DAP toward a system in which the Statewide Director would work in collaboration with a team of experts to provide technical assistance and training to districts and educational entities. This recommendation reconstitutes the regulations to neutralize the distinction between DAP approved programs and other in-district options, thereby, allowing and providing adequate resources to serve on behalf of all student with ASD in Delaware. The number of technical/ training experts has been identified as one expert per 100 students statewide. It is suggested that the fiscal mechanism to support these changes should be through mandated district participation that is congruent with the current needs based funding system in Delaware. Lastly, the current mandatory committee structure is enhanced to include a Parent Advisory Committee, in addition to the Peer Review Committee and Statewide Monitoring Review board.
These changes include articulation of the qualifications and duties of the Statewide Director for Students with ASD; the addition of a technical assistance team of educational autism specialists numbering a ratio of 1 for every 100 students (currently estimated at 15 positions); and the further clarification / additions to the committee structure for family input, monitoring, and protections under human rights. This recommendation recognizes and supports the need for specialized technical assistance and training staff to be available to build capacity for teachers in all districts and other programs educating students with ASD. These changes essentially expand available supports so that excellent, evidence-based training and technical assistance can be made available to all Delaware schools and the students within them.
, synopsis for SB93: This bill establishes an Interagency Committee on Autism and the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism.  Among other things, the Interagency Committee on Autism is charged with a) utilizing evidence-based practices and programs to improve outcomes for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in Delaware by sharing information, initiatives, data and communications among both public and private agencies providing services and supports for individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders in the State of Delaware; and b) implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2013 Delaware Strategic Plan entitled “Blueprint for Collective Action: Final Report of the Delaware Strategic Plan to Improve Services and Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism is to provide a resource for training and technical assistance for Delaware state agencies, organizations and other private entities operating in the State of Delaware that provide services and support to individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Network is to support the operations of the Interagency Committee on Autism through the maintenance of the website, maintenance of reports created by the Interagency Committee on Autism and maintenance of meeting minutes, as well as other support as needed by the Interagency Committee on Autism.

What Happened: The budget.  This is one of those crucial bills dealing with a fast-rising population of children and adults with Autism.  This bill will cost a lot of money.   With the budget issues at the end of the session, there was no way this was going to get to a vote.

Prediction: If you thought the opt-out parents were vocal, the General Assembly may want to prepare for these parents.  The Delaware Autism Program is running out of money.  States are obligated under Federal law to provide services.  Cuts will have to be made in the budget to make room for this.  Taxes will increase after the 148th General Assembly closes shop, this is a given.  These bills have to pass.  This is one of the biggest health issues of the future, and if we don’t get control over it now, it will jeopardize thousands and thousands of children and adults with Autism.  If you think we spend a lot of money on residential treatment centers now, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the future. Anyone who votes no on this bill will instantly be seen as the state pariah and will be voted out of office. This bill will pass, but the cost will be enormous, and sacrifices will need to be made.

Senate Bill #137 Status: on Senate ready list, Sponsore: Senator Harris McDowell, synopsis: Delaware’s Community College System plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology associated therewith and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county vo-tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax subject to a cap.

What Happened: it didn’t get heard by the Senate Education Committee until the last week of committee meetings.  Too many other bills demanding to get a vote, got lost in the shuffle.

Prediction: this is one of those what I like to call “sneaky bills” where it gets passed, and all of a sudden citizens start wondering “Why did my taxes go up and I’m paying for community colleges?”  If this passed by June 30th, it wouldn’t have survived the House.  But in 2016, anything can happen with the budget.  This could either get a lot of support or it will die quickly.

Senate Bill #161 Status: Senate Education Committee, sponsor: Senator Gerald Hocker, synopsis: This Act requires public schools to begin their school year after Labor Day. There have been many economic impact reports done that show a positive impact from starting public schools after Labor Day. A report by the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association estimates that $369 million would be lost if schools were not required to start after Labor Day. This includes $104 million in wages and $21 million in state and local taxes. Maryland is considering similar legislation. A study of Maryland found that pushing the start of school back would generate $74.3 million in economic activity and $7.7 million in new state and local tax revenue.

What Happened: Introduced on the second to last day of the session, this bill was destined to go nowhere by June 30th.

Prediction: This is another one of those downstate bills that aren’t popular in Newcastle and Kent.  This one goes nowhere.  Even if it saved the state money, the effect wouldn’t be seen to balance the budget by 6/30/16.

A lot of these bills will depend on the budget.  This is the reality.

Kilroy Is Going To Go On The Warpath Over The Hat Trick…Hide Schwartzkopf and Hudson, Hide Well!!!!

I warned them, numerous times.  Get House Bill 61 to a vote.  Allow school board meetings to be recorded and put them on public web sites 7 business days after.  I told them this was the third year in a row it was on the ready list but never got to a vote.  Do they listen to me? Hell no!

In hockey, if someone gets three goals, they call it a hat trick.  Well, State Rep. Schwartzkopf and State Rep. Hudson are both the hat trick recipients for NOT getting Kilroy’s bill to a vote.  For three years in a row.  And he is NOT happy!  Hudson sponsored the bill three years in a row, and Speaker of the House Schwartzkopf let it sit there,  gathering dust, three years in a row.

I would not want to be on the receiving end of whatever comes next.  And I’m guessing he will leave no stone unturned.  I get a lot of information from people and I’ve only been doing this for a little over a year.  Kilroy has been doing this for 10 years…fair warning once again…watch out!

Vice President Biden Wants Body Cameras For Police, Why Can’t We Get Charter Boards To Record Their Meetings?

Vice President Joe Biden said he wants body cameras for police so they can record everything.  I don’t mind this idea at all.  It would avoid any questions that may arise during a confrontation, like Ferguson.  We need more transparency in another big area in Delaware as well: charter school board meetings!

Last year, State Rep Deb Hudson sponsored House Bill 23, and nothing came of it.  It sat there, waiting for Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf to release it and put it on the ready list.  The Speaker did nothing with it.  The bill would have to be written again and go through the whole process all over again, but it would be worth it.  I’m sure many parents from charter schools like Academy of Dover, Providence Creek, Moyer, Family Foundations Academy and Academia Antonia Alonso wish they knew what was said at different times in the past year.  This would be the best time for a legislator to introduce this type of legislation!

Which legislator would do it?  Will Hudson pick up the baton again or should it be handed off to someone else?  Someone with more influence on Schwartzkopf preferably.  I know Kilroy would have a parade if this passed!  Publius would have a heart attack!  About 6-7 public school districts do this already in the state, along with the Delaware State Board of Education.  Our children deserve more than board minutes that don’t give much information.  We want and need more!